Three Kachin activists were sentenced today by a court in Burma to six months in prison and a fine of 500,000 Burmese Kyats (£250) each for their role in a peaceful demonstration calling on the Burmese government to help internally displaced people fleeing attacks by the Burma Army.
Activists Lum Zawng, Nang Pu and Zau Jat were charged with defamation of the Burma Army under Article 500 of Burma’s penal code for their role in a peaceful rally on 30 April 2018, and a press conference the following day, following the escalation of the conflict between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
More than 5,000 civilians were reportedly displaced as a result of fighting earlier this year, and at least 2,000 were trapped without access to humanitarian assistance for several weeks. The protests, in which Lum Zawng, Nang Pu and Zau Jet participated, called for assistance for those fleeing the conflict.
CSW’s East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers said: “This sentence is outrageous and completely unjustified. These three activists were appealing for aid for civilians trapped in the jungle fleeing fighting. Since when has peacefully appealing for humanitarian assistance been a crime?”
Last month, CSW hosted a delegation of six activists from the Kachin, Shan and Ta’ang ethnic nationalities in northern Burma in London and Brussels, where they urged parliamentarians and policy-makers to put pressure on the government of Burma to allow unrestricted humanitarian access to all areas of Kachin and Shan states, and to repeal repressive laws which repress Burmese civil society and media.
“The decision to charge these three brave activists with defamation of the military was absurd, and the decision to convict, jail and fine them is a miscarriage of justice,” Benedict Rogers added. “We call for their immediate and unconditional release and for this verdict to be reversed. No one peacefully protesting against war and for humanitarian assistance should ever be criminalised. Peaceful protest is a basic human right, and those who exercise that right to appeal for aid for people fleeing conflict deserve our respect and support.”
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press and Public Affairs Team Leader at CSW on +44 (0)782 332 9663 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
CSW is a human rights organisation specialising in freedom of religion or belief. We work on over 20 countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. www.csw.org.uk